Shameless Humanity: Here in America, as in Ethiopia

 A week ago, on Monday, May 25, 2020, we celebrated Memorial Day. What a memorable Memorial Day it ended up being.

A Murder Scene

That evening, something happened in Minneapolis. The horrible event was captured on video from multiple angles and broadcast all over the world. The appalling image that is imprinted in my mind is the subject of this writing. The object of my own search for my own humanity.

On my TV screen I observed a man, a human being, hands tied behind his back, on the concrete pavement face down, and a heavy strong knee pressed against his neck purposely and methodically squeezing every last bit of breath out of him. It was determined by authorities that the slow killing of Mr. Floyd took nearly nine minutes, nearly three of those minutes being after the victim had fallen unconscious. The killer, a human being, one who is entrusted with and sworn to defend and protect citizens like Mr. Floyd.

There were others too. Closest to the activity, there was one, a human being for sure, standing close, observing disinterestedly, and occasionally turning to the crowed without emotion. He too is a peace officer expected to protect and defend. Two others who kept coming in and out of view, uniformed, and on duty, are seen holding the almost lifeless victim down. At the same time, the helpless crowd, concerned for the life of the victim, could be heard pleading with the “officers” to let him go.

Finally, they, “the peace officers”, checked the man’s pulse, and, as if satisfied that he has expired, called the ambulance and he was taken to the hospital.

As soon as they announced his death, the police started to disseminate information that would free the “officers” from culpability. “No shots were fired” as if the only way the police could kill is by firing shots. “He had medical conditions” as if the way to help a man with a medical condition is by throwing him on the ground and shoving a knee into his neck. This, official but untrue story would be corroborated by the autopsy report that the cause of death is an underlying medical condition, not the knee. This has happened before, time and time again, and killer cops have literally “gotten away with murder.” They have their stories, observed, and documented facts notwithstanding. Shameless humanity!

Unfortunately, this is not the only image of a black man being brutally murdered in the hands of white police officers that we have seen. Other images like those of Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, and others are conjured up to question the humanity of not only those who do the killing but also the humanity of the rest of us, the bedrock of this inhuman system.

The Protest

The public reaction to such killings has also been predictable and customary. The enraged public takes to the street carrying protest signs, and chanting; “Justice for Floyd,” “We want justice,” “No justice, no peace’’, and the like. They walk, they chant and continue on. When the day ends and the night takes over the tone changes.

Most of the protesters continue to protest peacefully. A group breaks off and starts throwing rocks, breaking windows, setting vehicles on fire. This escalates to putting buildings on fire and breaking into stores. Some are seen walking by unaffected and continuing their protests. Others are seen running into the stores and walking out with armfuls of goods. Protesters turned looters, or looters hiding among protesters, hard to tell. Police come, a confrontation ensues, tear gases, arrests, chaotic scene. All this in the name demanding justice for Floyd. Just like in the original scene, here too, two kinds of humanity; those who are there to protest injustice, and those who take justice in their own hands. Where do I stand?

I am not out there protesting. I am not calling on authorities and demanding justice. Yet, my sympathy seems to be with Floyd and those who are protesting his unlawful death. I remember telling someone that had I been twenty years younger, I would have been out there protesting. Really? I am a 72-year-old, healthy man. I see people who are older than me flying across the country to come and stand with the protesters. Making speech and calling for justice. I see physically challenged people with their canes or wheelchairs among the protesters. It makes me question my own honesty. There must be something else. I am a human being. I must be enraged.

Remembering the Land of Human Butchery

My mind wanders off to Ethiopia where the long and costly Oromo youth protest shook up things and brought about “change.” It was hoped that it was a “change for the better.” Instead, it is proving to be tantamount to “jumping into the fire from a frying pan.” The protest was costly in that over fifteen thousand Oromo youth lost their lives in the hands of Ethiopian authorities who wanted to silence the protesters. Pictures of some of those who perished circulated on social media widely. Some of them are so awful that they still give me nightmares when I think about them. As cruel as the murder of Mr. Floyd was, it pales in comparison to the barbaric way those Oromo youths were murdered.

We were promised and we expected better days for the 40,000,000+ Oromo citizens of Ethiopia when the then Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn resigned and the current prime minister, Dr. Abyi Ahmed was installed. And, he did not take long to disappoint us. Extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and gross violations of human rights escalated under Dr. Abiyi. Yes, it is the extrajudicial killing of Mr. Floyd and the shame of humanity it uncovered that this essay is all about. And, before I digressed, I was contemplating why it was that I was not outraged enough to be out there protesting.

As humans, we are very malleable. We can get used to or adapt to just about anything. That is why the slavers of yore thought that the enslaved Africans were different from their European masters. They, the enslaved Africans, withstood so much whipping and were thought of as having extra tolerance for pain. They, the enslaved Africans, come home from daylong hard labor and still had enough energy to stay up and play and laugh as a family and were thought of as being different from Europeans in their construction. By the same token, I, after seeing so many gruesome images, must have built enough tolerance to think that it is nothing new. Nothing to be excited about.

 I admit, somewhat reluctantly, that I am jealous. I am jealous that I am not seeing protests in opposition to the hundreds, nameless hundreds, of Oromos suffering similar, and often worse, cases of extrajudicial killing. I wish Mr. Floyd never died. I wish the mass murders that are happening Ethiopia stop happening. But, in a twisted sense, in a twisted reality of human co-existence, Mr. Floyd’s senseless murder appears enviable in comparison with the murders of hundreds of Oromos that take place daily away from the public eye and in complete silence. My sincere apologies!

I have always known Ethiopia to be a prison, depressingly damp, and dark prison. But over the last two years, that prison has turned into a hell hole where vicious beasts and vermin abound. Where life is constantly in danger, liable to be snatched at any time for any reason. Where human life has no worth.

In Oromia region of Ethiopia, especially in areas that are under the misrule of the Command Post, human life is in constant danger. It is not only the staggering number of extrajudicial killings but the disgustingly barbaric way the killings take place that casts a grim shadow on our humanity. Those who do it, do it without shame, and those who watch it seem to have their human conscience benumbed. Reverence for life is not known. Crude barbarity reigns. Shameless!

Repressed Memory

Now I remember why the image of Mr. Floyd’s last minutes of life keeps bothering me. As he was pleading for air, saying “please,” calling for his “mama,” a grown man, a “gentle giant” as he was known, gasping for air and still calling out to humanity for mercy. I saw white foam filling his mouth and oozing out. Those who were there witnessed him urinating on himself as well. Subconsciously, I must have been seeing a replay of a scene from my childhood, the last and only other time I watched a man being killed. I was only 6 or 7 years old, incapable of comprehending the meaning of the whole thing. I went to the market in the town of Gimbii, Ethiopia, with my mother. We heard that a man was going to be hung in the center of the market. We rushed there. We saw the gallows. People were standing around it. Somehow, I got to be in the front raw. Two officers brought a young man in handcuffs, he seemed old to me then as he was about 20. He was made to step on a pedestal. The noose was put around his neck. He was given a chance to say his final words, the last gesture of “human goodwill” towards him. Then the pedestal was kicked away from underneath him. His hands tied behind his back and legs still in chains, his body spun around for a while. His mouth started frothing. Urine ran down his legs. Just like that, he was gone. I literally watched the man die. I am not sure how long the body was left hanging. The crowd dispersed. I was scared, scared of uniformed people, and scared of talking about it.

No one really knows what it is like for one to be in that situation. At the juncture between life and death, being and not being, consciousness and unconsciousness forever. Everyone says that those who have made this transition, the departed, are in a better place. Yet no one is in a hurry to make that transition, at least, not for the purpose of being in a better place. I am sure that the killers are not intending to do their victims a favor by sending them to a better place. Naturally, people insist on living longer, hanging on to life, until one can resist no more.

Learned Cruelty

But what about the killers? What goes on the minds of killers as they do their killing? They are human beings; they can think and feel. They must be thinking about what they are doing. The officers that took part in the killing of Mr. Floyd, the many individuals in Ethiopia who kill innocent Oromos like the one who shot a mother of four while she was working in her farm field, the officers who took a young man on his way to work and mutilated him and left his dismembered body to be found three days later, or the officers who captured a young man who was in a marketplace to meet his fiancé and killed him and threw his body in a sack and left it in a field, or the government official at a meeting who shot a man dead right in the meeting because the man’s cell phone rang, or the ones who put fire on a house while the family is sleeping inside at midnight and let police dogs loose on those who were able to get out, or …

These too are human beings. Why aren’t they repulsed by the grossly inhuman acts they are committing? Are they naturally different from others, or is it a gradual numbing of the senses? Growing less and less human by constantly practicing cruelty? God have mercy!

Lives Matter

Human beings cannot afford to continue disregarding the value of the lives some without facing the reality of lowering the value of the lives of all. I have heard people say “all lives matter” when they hear “Black Lives Matter.” Whatever their motivation for using such a counter-argument, the fact remains. All lives matter as much as the life that is least valued. Right now, black lives in America and Oromo lives in Ethiopia seem to carry little value. For all lives to matter, black lives must matter as well. For all lives to matter, Oromo lives must matter as well. Humanity, according to the Good Book, is created a notch above other animals. And, even after the original sin, they remain capable of rising above their animal selves. They cannot do this while trying to brutally dehumanize some segment of humanity.

Remember, while you keep your total weight on me to keep me in the gutter, you must remain in the gutter with me, albeit on top of me. You fail to realize that it is better for you to fly up high with me as your equal than stay in the gutter as my superior. This shamelessness must end.

Teferi Fufa

June, 2020

Shall We Now Rejoice and Dance?

For the last three months, about twenty million residents of the Western and Southern Oromia region have been suffering under a severe and cruel restriction of information whereby the Internet, email, social media, and telephone communications were shut down. Oromo organizations from all over the world, international humanitarian organizations, UN agencies, and activists have called on the government of Colonel Abiyi to lift those restrictions and allow free flow of information. In light of the current Corona Virus, the campaign had picked up momentum. All along, the Oromia government had been quiet. Officials, when confronted, had been saying, “It is not up to us. It is the federal government that imposed it.” And, the president of Oromia Region, Lij Shimelis Abdisa, had not been heard from on this subject. That is, until just a couple of days ago. Reports of him touring different parts of Wellega, flanked by his media and security entourage, started appearing. And rumors of the possibility that he might lift the media blockade when he returns to his office were heard. Yesterday, it was announced that the media blockade is lifted. Families who have not heard from each other for three months were pleased when their calls connected and they were able to talk to their loved ones. It is time to sit back be glad it is over. Or is it? Even though it took three months and caused immeasurable anguish on the people, it is good that the blockade is now lifted. And those who worked so hard to bring this about have a good reason to rejoice. Unfortunately, there are more reasons why the celebration must wait and the campaign must continue. The telltale signs that this is not over is the explanation that followed the lifting of the blockade. We are told that the president visited the areas affected and found that the blockade had done what it was supposed to do. It was because of security concerns that it was imposed in the first place, and those concerns, according to the findings of the president, do not exist anymore. On the face of it, this explanation might sound like an excuse for the government to pull out of an untenable situation. But the fact that it is the Oromia government, which was mute heretofore, that is making this announcement coupled with the reason the blockade was imposed in the first place makes think otherwise. Let us consider the “security concern” that is alleged as the cause for the media/communication blockade. Let us further consider when and why the “security concern” started. A brief review of the sequence of events will, in my opinion, lead us to the conclusion that we are far from the end of such a collective punishment like the information/media blockade. First, there was an agreement between the “reformed” EPRDF and the OLF. The OLF was to return to Ethiopia and continue its struggle peacefully. Its fighters were to return and either join the army or lead civilian life as they choose. The OLF had some armed fighters in Eritrea and the rest were in Oromia. The ones in Eritrea returned shortly after the OLF leadership arrived in Finfinne. There was a brief campaign of misinformation by the government that the number of OLF fighters coming from Eritrea was smaller than reported and that some of them were not even Oromos but Tigrians. There was also a counter-accusation by the OLF that the returning OLF fighters were being mistreated and that, counter to their agreement, the OLF leadership was being denied access to the fighters. That was the beginning of mistrust and ill will between the two parties. Hearing the news of the aborted process and cognizant of what happened last time when the OLF fighters disarmed and encamped under similar circumstances, the remaining OLF fighters refused to return. The OLF leadership could not give assurances of safety to its fighters who are still armed and are in Oromia. As a result, Obbo Dawud Ibsa declared that he no longer has an army and he has from that day on surrendered the fighters to the Abba Gadas and the Oromo people. This decision further aggravated the already sour relationship. A sham committee was put together to gather up the fighters and turn them in. We all know how that ended. The government of Colonel Abiyi was relying on a serious miscalculation all along. It had assumed, and some of the officials have made public statements supporting this, that the OLF fighters were very few in number and that they did not have weapons that amounted to much. As a result, they relied on their army and superior weapons to hunt down and capture the “shiftas” in no time. It did not take them long to discover that they had a formidable opposition. They put the entire area under military rule. Thinking that this will round up what they continued to refer to as the “shiftas”, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). The military rule over the entire area has been in operation for more than two years and is still going on. Over the period, unprecedented abuses have been suffered by the residents, unarmed and peaceful, accused of supporting the OLA. It is to hide these crimes and intensify their abuses over the entire population that the media blockade was imposed. It is also to collectively punish the entire population by cutting them from the rest of the world, including friends and relatives who live and work outside of the blockade. At the announcement of the lifting of the blockade, much had been said about the crimes OLA was accused of committing prior to the blockade that was not happening anymore. But they did not say they had “wiped out” the shiftas, as they called them. They did not announce that they reached a truce. This, therefore, is a tactical move to stave off the international pressure and devise something similar or even more sinister. The current Ethiopian government’s animosity against the people of all of Wallaga, Guji, and Borana, for exhibiting Oromo nationalist sentiment and their reluctance to turn against the Oromo Liberation Army is intense and ongoing. I suggest that we postpone the celebration and gear up for the next campaign.

Teferi Fufa

April 2020

Oromia: Challenges Unprecedented

These are perilous times for all inhabitants of this wonderful planet. Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens us all. But for millions of my Oromo kinfolk, it is not the COVID-19 that threatens the continued existence of the entire nation, their identity, their dignity, and their humanity. Pandemics come, take their tall, and they go, leaving their devastations behind. Societies pick up the pieces, rebuild, and move on. But the danger for the Oromo society is more sinister, less temporal and more enduring, less partial and more all-encompassing. This danger, for the Oromo, is a new development.

Many have correctly observed that, in recent history, the Oromo have always faced dangers and survived them. I too, have made those observations and have enumerated them in the past. In the past, the dangers we faced were all external and, by and large, the same in nature and purpose. King Sahle Selassie’s seasonal campaigns paved the way for emperor Menelik’s occupation. Emperor Haile Selassie’s long reign of Error was followed by the Dergue’s reign of terror. And, through it all, we managed to not only survive and maintain a strong and protracted resistance to prevent a complete capitulation.

Some would argue that our struggle for national liberation would have been successful by now if it had not been for some disloyal individuals amongst us. It is true that we had our share of weak individuals who put personal interest before the national interest, temporary relief over long term wellbeing, and are satisfied by the crumbs falling off of a master’s table instead of striving to own the table. The efforts of our many heroic leaders from Abishe Garba to Tadese Biru were stifled by such individuals. In spite of all that, slowly but surely, we made progress.

Yes, the era of the TPLF, all things considered, was the era of major resurgence for the Oromo resistance to colonial subjugation. Behold the development of Oromo language, art, and culture. Behold the qeerroo generation’s sense of self-respect and national aspiration. Contrast this with the enemy’s desperation. Our long investment is starting to pay a dividend. Post-TPLF, by all indications, was to be the time when our struggles would change from that of survival to that of growth, from guarding ourselves against a dangerous world to building a more livable world. This promising trajectory is deflected because of the interjection of a dog-whistle phrase, Prosperity Party, and the emergence of a serious and potentially, a terminal disease.

This is a disease much like the COVID-19 virus but much worse. It is worse because the virus is an external enemy against which you can take preventative actions. If it attacks you can take measures to limit the number of people it attacks. Survival of the society is almost assured. Unlike the external enemy, the current Oromo enemy is internal. Still it is different from the internal enemies we used to face which gave the external enemy vital information to forestall our advances. This one is actively fighting us to eliminate the struggle, nationality, dignity, identity and the total Oromo being. Much like cancer, it is the body fighting itself, tissue by tissue, organ by organ, spreading without notice. Its agonizing presence is felt right to the end.

Many might take my assessment as an exaggeration. Some might even consider it ill-informed. But I beg my readers to follow the rise and fall of “Team Lema” from its beginning to the present. Remember Oromo protest and Qeerroo? Consider the causative factors that brought about their emergence vis a vis the Oromo cause. Consider their slogan then.

                 Our struggle, our freedom, Oromummaa, our fallen heroes, etc.
                 We are all brothers. We fight for the same goal. We work for
                 our people.

Now consider the slogan in effect.

                 Nationalism is backward. The fight is over. Armed Oromos
                 are shiftas. We shall eradicate them. Nationalism is racism.

More importantly, look at what they are doing. Oromos are herded to jail in more numbers and at a higher pace than any other time in the history of the empire. Oromos face the risk of targeted killing from government forces and private individuals alike, the like of which has never been known heretofore. Oromo students are attacked and killed in universities in Amara areas without protection from local authorities. Neither the Oromia region nor the federal government seems to care. Oromo students in Oromia who complain about treatments of their brothers and sisters face severe punishment that includes arrests, imprisonment, and expulsion from the universities.

Worst of all, Half of Oromia is under an undeclared military rule. The kind of abuse suffered by Oromos in those regions is not expected to exist even in the worst of war situations. Now those regions are denied even the most basic of rights: the right to contact friends and exchange information, the right to telephone, internet, and the media. We may never know how many lives have been lost, how much property has been destroyed, and the level of barbarity that was on display while these crimes were being committed. These forces of evil are committing these crimes under the cover of darkness that they created with the full knowledge that nobody witnesses the gory scenes and gets repulsed, for such scenes are repulsive to human eyes.

Unfortunately, these things are not limited to, nor are they designed to be limited to the said areas of Wellega, Guji, and Borana. The spirit of Oromummaa, the Oromo national feeling and the quest for freedom that has engulfed these regions are in every Oromo in all of Oromia. As all cancers do, these sons of Team Lema, whose life goal is to eradicate Oromo nationalism, thereby eliminating all nationalisms, never rest until they have visited all of Oromia with the full force of their destructive blight. They are not bought by the enemy, and so, they cannot be bought back. The enemy within us is malignant cancer. Cancer, if it is to be overcome, has to be treated by radical means of surgical, chemical, and radiation. There is no pleasure in taking these painful measures, but what has to be done has to be done if the person is to be cured.

Colonel Abyi Ahmed’s sermon on peace and forgiveness, in practice, had been fully extended to the thieves, rapists, robbers, and murderers of his former company and current allies while it is non-existent for the Oromo masses and those who stand for the cause of the Oromo. And his sermon on “love” is no more comforting to the Oromo than the words of the Orthodox deacon, Daniel Kibret, whom he elevated high office the other day. His campaign of “no other armed groups other than that of the government” applies to Oromo groups only. Amhara armed groups, including those who attempted to assassinate him, freely roam about in the Oromia region as well as Amhara region, without any restriction. But the entire half of the Oromia region is under military rule because one Oromo armed group, the Oromo Liberation Army refuses to disarm. His respect for history covers the entire gamut of Ethiopian myths but does not extend the suffering of the Oromo under Menelik or TPLF. With such a record, he cannot be held up as an example of Oromo leadership. The “Prosperity Party” is a distraction, a dog-whistle, as stated above. There is no reasonable or desirable prosperity that will be gained by engaging in isolating and killings of masses residing in a major portion of a region. There is no prosperity to be gained by night raids and mass incarcerations. And definitely, there is no prosperity to be gained where there is widespread rule by thugs. All actions and reactions of the Ethiopian government at the moment are to thwart the Oromo progress and do away with Oromo identity and push us back to a state of oblivion at best, and that of non-existence, at worst.

May God spare us from such fate. And, remember, God helps those who help themselves.

Teferi Fufa March 2020

Nations and Nationalities of Ethiopia: Fact and Fiction

The master narrative of the Ethiopian empire regarding the people of Ethiopia is being contested. Counter narratives are emerging. Might these contestations lead to a more refined and acceptable narrative or the emergence of multiple narratives proving, once again, that “the truth is in the eye of the observer.”

Here I am going to state the master narratives as they emerged in their various formulations. I present them as fictions for all master narratives are designed to conceal underlying facts. I will pose these underlying facts as facts because they provide us with counter-narratives.

Fiction: The process of building the Ethiopian empire was a reunification of an old empire which had been broken up in the past, and as such, of was a gallant feat by the emperor.

Fact: Ethiopian antiquity, as it relates to the peoples now found within the empire, goes back only as far as the 1930s. Up until then, Abyssinia existed for centuries as a neighbor to the other peoples, such as the Oromo, having contacts that are sometimes friendly and sometimes hostile, and never under one government. The formation of the Ethiopia empire was, therefore, a violent occupation that created two different and distinct types of people under one rule, namely, the rulers and the ruled (ristagnoch and tisagnoch, or landowners and serfs.)

Fiction: The construction of the Ethiopian empire was good for all the peoples. It has benefited the conquerors and the conquered alike. Among the benefits for the conquered are, security, modernity, Christianity and the written language.

Fact: Like in all occupations, colonial or otherwise, in the formation of Ethiopia, “to the victor belong the spoils.” Normally, the victor walks away with the spoils. In this case, the victor stayed and collection of the booty never ceased. The argument that being occupied has benefits for the occupied is tantamount to saying the system of slavery has benefitted the enslaved. The argument is not new. Southern plantation owners argued that case in the past, obvious and prevailing facts notwithstanding.

Fiction: All have contributed to the defense of Ethiopia. Therefore, Ethiopia belongs to all. We must all fight the lack of good governance while protecting Ethiopian integrity against both external and internal foes.

Fact: Yes, the emperor was able to order his vassals in the different regions of his empire to raise their quota armies to fight the Italians. To argue that the different subject peoples of Ethiopia, at that time, willingly sacrificed their children to defend a system that colonized them and alienated them from their own cultures and systems of government is being disingenuous. The truth is that the conquered people gave up their land when they are ordered to, they brought in honey, gold, and grain when they are ordered to, and, of course, they sent their sons to the war when they are ordered to. This is a lot of the unfree. Besides, those who really own Ethiopia know who they are. They will quickly jump to the front when their interest is threatened. Behold the recent claim by one Amhara group that they have “a lion’s share” in the construction of Ethiopia. I hope they can claim a proportional share of responsibility for damages done during the demolition of our systems as they were laying the foundation for the ill-fated empire.

 

A side note: When I was a child I heard about all the brave people who went to the battle of Adwa. I was moved by it. I came home and asked my grandfather why he was not one of those heroic soldiers. I still remember the expression on his face. The loss he suffered during the imposition of the imperial system flashed in front of him. He said, “Fighting is easy, son. It is knowing what you are fighting for that matters more.” This confused me. I asked him to explain. Without going into much detail, he said, “The Italians want our land. So do the Amhara. Whoever wins gets our land. What do I have to fight for?” It was only then that I learned that there were Oromos who fought on the side of the Italians too. If you did not fight for your own cause, your sacrifice is wasted. Remember, African Americans proudly served the US army during the war against Nazi Germany. On the war front, they were treated worse than the captured German Nazis by their own white comrades. After they came home, they were thrown back into Jim Craw.

 

Fiction: The different peoples in Ethiopia have lived together, intermarried, and have become indistinguishable. There is no pure ethnic group, and therefore, we are all Ethiopians. Any assertion to the contrary is ill-conceived attempt to create division and discord.

Fact: The intermarriage of different peoples is nothing new. It did not start with us and will not end with u. however, we choose to solve our problems. It is also true that there were a limited number of intermarriages arranged by the monarchy to foster loyalty, not to change identities. The families so intermarried did not lose their identities let alone entire peoples. The denial of separate identities is a cover for the uncontested hegemony of the ruling people or ethnic group. Besides, the demand for freedom is not a declaration of hatred for the people from whom one wishes to be free. It is a refusal to leave under a subjugating system. If there is hostility, it is towards those who are enforcing the system.

Fiction: Ethnic Federalism is the source of ethnic problems in Ethiopia. A return to the old divisions would serve better administrative functions and reduce ethnic tensions. Fact: Surely the rise of the different ethnic-based resistance groups predates by far the ethnic federal arrangement. Every regime of Ethiopia that I know, from the emperor Haile Selassie, to the current one, has had to fight against different liberation fronts. The Oromo resistance started during the first Abyssinian raiding party and continues to date. Claims to the contrary are willful ignorance or self-serving diversion.

Fiction: Strong Ethiopia is essential to the stability of the region. Strong Ethiopia plays a positive roll in the geopolitical interests of the big powers.

Fact: This erroneous belief has guided European, America included, policy in the Horn of Africa from the time the Portuguese first sent their Emissaries to Abyssinia centuries ago to the present. Whatever good these policies have done for the big powers, they have wreaked havoc with the region and stunted its development. Ethiopia, in effect, has managed to play the role of an arsonist playing a fireman and has gotten away with it. In my lifetime, starting with the monarchy to the present, I have not seen a time when Ethiopia was at peace with all its neighbors. A war with a neighbor is needed to drum up internal unity and avoid dissent. A war with the neighbor is needed to build up a war machinery in the form of foreign assistance. The most recent victim of such a policy is our own Barack Obama. On his trip to Addis Ababa, he stood in front of the world’s most corrupt and least democratic leaders, he praised their courage to fight and declared them, “democratically elected.” We tried to inform him through his aids about the crimes being committed at the very time of his visit. His aids, charmed by the sweet-talking leaders of Ethiopia convinced him to believe otherwise. I hope the recent revelations of high-level corruption as well as the gruesome crimes that were being committed, just like we warned him, will make him look back and do something to influence future policies that are contrary to the ones upheld.

A post-script: It is undeniable that there are many different and distinct Ethnic groups in Ethiopia. They are there and have always been there. The misfortune of modern weapons and the practice of colonial brutality has made possible the possibility of extinction or erasure of peoples. The Ethiopian system of government, throughout its many evolutions, has increasingly targeted the occupied peoples for marginalization and extinction. The victims of the system are doubling up their efforts to survive and expose the brutal system for what it is. Some proponents of the Ethiopian empire are crying foul! They are accusing these victims as racists, anti-Ethiopian, haters, and etc. Ethiopia, they claim, must come first. In contrast, I say, a state that is not for the people must never be. Teferi Fufa December 2018.

Dr. Abiy Ahmed Will Soon Be the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

 

What are the ramifications?

He is young and educated. His resume is long and impressive. He is good looking as well. Dr. Abiy Ahmed is now the head of EPRDF and, thus, the new Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Both inside and outside of Ethiopia Dr. Abiy is the topic of discussion. He has his supporters and his detractors. But in Addis, a city that is starving for peace, certainty, and change, mass euphoria is on display. Many are expecting change and they believe Dr. Abiy can do it if anyone can.

Analysts have also been busy parsing the enormous task ahead of him given who he is and the critical situation his government is facing. Whether Dr. Abiy proves to be the last-minute savior of EPRDF (TPLF) or one chosen to preside over the demise of the organization remains to be seen.

For me the question is not whether or not he is up to the task but what task he is taking on. There are two diametrically opposed views of the road ahead: one that calls for repairing the damaged name of Ethiopia and bring her back to her old glory, though that glory never existed nor is the notion shared by all, and the other that frees the peoples of Ethiopia from the ever-evolving forms of bondage and makes them masters of their affairs. Dr. Abiy is well suited to take either of these roads but cannot take both roads and succeed or survive.

Dr. Abiy’s rise to power is unique in one sense

There have been Oromo individuals in a position of power before. Dr. Abiy is not unique in that sense. But those who rose to power before him came to power in order to serve the will the rulers.  The interests of the Oromo, if there were any, were invisible and secondary. They did not front their Oromummaa. Dr. Abiy on the other hand is chosen and is expected to solve a problem as an Oromo. Rather, his Oromummaa is to be an answer to a vexing problem the TPLF is facing, Oromo Protest. The EPRDF did not want any Oromo in a powerful position, for obvious reasons. It is the incessant and powerful Oromo Protest that forced the TPLF/EPRDF to look to the OPDO for its own salvation. And so, the leader rises as an Oromo, not hiding his Oromo identity.

Dr. Abiy the Man

While some people think he is young and short on experience to take on such a daunting task, I think is smart and skilled enough to maneuver the bureaucratic terrain and find his way with relative ease. He worked in the system and rose through the ranks. Others think he is just a puppet who the TPLF needed to quell the protest and he will have no agenda of his own. While it is possible that that is the hope, and even a design, of the TPLF, I believe Dr. Abiy has his own ideas that he wants to try out. It is what ideas he has and how he tries to implement them that should be of interest here. Of course, the TPLF might find his ideas objectionable and intervene to disrupt and destroy. He too, like all human beings is subject to corruption, and might be tempted to shelf his own ideas in favor power and glory.

His statements that appeared on some video clips and articles suggest that he has a good grasp the predicament his government is in. He also appears to have clear ideas about the future of Ethiopia and how he thinks those ideas can be implemented. I am going to emphasis three issues he addressed, they will be paraphrased here as I do not have the exact wordings, for my assessment of his ideas and possible course of action.

Talking about the peoples of Ethiopia, he said something like, “We have no other choice but come together, not just support each other but come together as one.” I do not think he said this as a matter of pragmatic assessment but as a matter of belief. discussion This is problematic. It is problematic in that it feeds into the notion that the peoples of Ethiopia are at war with each other. The fact is that it is the government that is at war with the people, maybe more harshly with some than with others, but at war for sure. The same government saws seeds of mistrust for the purpose of divide-and-rule. When you misdiagnose a problem, you cannot solve it, no matter your intention.

On another point he said, “The children,” and here he is referring to Qeerroo, “must realize that they are inheriting a country. They must learn from us and take it over. They must get their education and get jobs,” This too, sounds benign, but carries the tone of EPRDF’s “We know better.”  Every time it is confronted with an opposition to its idea, the EPRDF has sought to explain it rather than listen to what is objectionable about it. Stating something over and over does not make agreeable. Listening to why it was objectionable and making the necessary change will,

Talking about artists, he said, “They should talk about what brings us together.” Here again, art is about reflecting reality and confronting ugly truths, not about whitewashing. Whether it is his time in the EPRDF system, his military background, or his innate belief, the idea that the leaders know better is reflected in his public pronouncements. To be sure, he appears to be compassionate, favoring listening to protesters before maligning them.

If I am correct in my assessment, the ideas listed above are appealing to the TPLF in that they concentrate on public fears and ways of alleviating them without fundamentally addressing the system and the conditions that make them relevant. Ethnic tensions, to the degree that they are issues the public is worried about, are perpetrated by the TPLF in order to distract the public’s attention from the crimes it is committing daily. Treating the demand of Oromo youth as one that needed only an adult lecture plays right into the hands of the TPLF. Qeerroo needs no lecture but a power that would stop the robbery, murder, and daily assault on their very being. His views on what art should be about, (painting a good and desirable picture to encourage peace and fraternity), indirectly criticizes artists for their current practices and justifies their imprisonment and persecution.

The TPLF is not the only group that would be happy about these ideas. The One Ethiopia group, those who have opposed the idea of Federalism (dubbed ethnic federalism) do not want to hear the word Oromo. For them it means the undoing of Ethiopia. Oh, yes, it is a good thing that the Qeerroo stood up to the TPLF and exposed its brutality. But to this group, even Qeerroo is an enemy. It is an enemy because it demands the autonomy of Oromia. A Dr. Abiy who might straighten these unruly kids would be a good leader, at least temporarily. Artists who depict the reality of Ethiopia, both its past and present, from the point of view of the dispossessed are seen as spreading ethnic hatred. Coming together as one people, for this group, is putting Ethiopia first. If you speak about what the people suffer because of their ethnicities, you are tearing Ethiopia apart, you are inciting ethnic conflict. If you are suffering because of your ethnicity, do it silently for the sake of Ethiopia. This is their message.

Therefore, there are people who find hope in what Dr. Abiy says and might do. He is popular because of that. He is also popular because he represents change. That, of course, is provided that he has the actual power, not just the office like his predecessor.

Impressive and yet worrisome resume

Like I said earlier, he has an impressive resume. Held many different positions and succeeded in all of them rising through the ranks without attracting negative attentions. While this might be a commendable trait in a relatively fair system, can it be a cause for concern in a system like that of the EPRDF? He had spent time in the Ethiopian security. Ethiopian security, for many, is security for EPRDF and its system, and terror for the citizens. What roll did he play in the design and implementation the Ethiopian security apparatus that subjected hundreds of thousands of Oromos and other nationalities to imprisonment, torture and death? His other positions can also be subjected to a similar scrutiny. These are not indictments but legitimate questions.

A False Hope

There are mass demonstrations in towns, villages, and cities particularly in Oromia. There is a hope that this is the beginning of a change, if not the needed change itself. But it is wise to be cautious. Those who think that the Amhara and the Tigre had their turn, and now its our (the Oromo) turn to rule Ethiopia, I have bad news. Bad news in that there are two scenarios in which the Oromo can have their turn, and they are both bad. One scenario is that in which the Oromos can have their turn, and this seems to be fair, is that the Oromo will come in with their own system of exploitation and subject all others as second-class citizens. After all, this has been the practice, Ethiopia knows nothing else. Nothing better. The second scenario, and this is what the hope of those who want to resurrect the old name and fame of Ethiopia is, the Oromo take over the system as is and let the rulers (ruling individuals) continue to abuse those who have been abused ever since Ethiopia came to be. That would leave the supremacy of Abyssinians and their system in place and put a few Oromo personalities up on the pedestal while pushing Oromo identity and humanity back into a state of nonexistence near to what it was during the reign of Abyssinian kings. I do not believe that either of thee two scenarios will be a desirable solution that would please everyone.

Success is in the eye of the beholder

It seems like Dr. Abiy could not fail. If improved condition were to give him a relative success, he should have no problem. When asked why she was celebrating the appointment of Dr. Abiy, what changed for her, a woman from Moyale, the site the recent massacre and the exodus of thousands, she said, “A one day relief is good enough.” A relief here and a relief there might be sufficient for the time being. But the long term meaning of Dr. Abiy’s appointment will be measured not in the number of temporary reliefs but in the permanent solutions the people are demanding. The real test of a promising future for this new regime is however, depends on the answers to the following questions:

            How soon after the inauguration of Dr. Abiy will the State of Emergency end?

            How soon will all the prisoners be released?

            How soon will and independent internal body be allowed to investigate all the human and
            civil rights abuses that have been committed during the last few years?

How soon will the federal security agencies be removed from Oromia and Amhara
regions?

How soon will all the people who had been forcefully removed from their homes be able
to return?

How soon will a real investigation into the disappearance, extralegal killings, tortures, and etc., begin?

These things must be addressed immediately and satisfactorily if the spirit of jubilation we are observing are to last.

If the future of Ethiopia lies in its past, be it distant or recent past, as some would suggest, the current conflicts would continue with varying degree of intensity. If the future of Ethiopia is to be imagined anew, then a major reconstruction is required. Dr. Abiy has his job cut out for him. I wish him luck.

 

 

Teferi Fufa, 2018

Oromo National Day

Oromo National Day

We appreciate your joining us, tonight, and We hope that you enjoy the evening as much as we do. Questions have been asked about the significance of this day and its purpose. What is the significance of this day? What is the celebration all about? All these are valid questions; and, I am not sure you will find our answers satisfactory.

 

But I assure you that it is not just an excuse to have a party. For, even as we party, we are mindful of our people’s griefs. Even as we dance, millions of our people are mourning the disappearance, imprisonments, tortures, and deaths of their loved ones.

 

At this very moment, truckloads of strangers are being brought to our areas, and our people are forced off their lands to make room for the strangers. Perhaps, an Oromo woman is forced to cook meals while her husband is forced to prepare the land for planting and her children are forced to fetch for water and firewood for these strangers, all in the name of helping famine victims.

 

At this very moment, millions of Oromo are forced to out of their own homes and move into village centers where their movements and activities are monitored by government militias at all times.

 

And, at this very moment, in every corner of Oromia, there is a war going on. Our brave men and women are waging a war of liberation against the fascist government of Ethiopia to end the enslavement of our people and protect our dignity.

 

Is there a cause for celebration?

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

             If the enemy had its way, there would be no Oromo national day. The Amhara Abyssinians, who now rule the Ethiopian Empire State burned and looted our villages, expropriated and destroyed our resources, and sold our people into slavery. They subjugated the rest of our people and held us in a subhuman condition. According to their designs, we would have been extinct long time ago.

            Much to their dismay, we not only survived, but our resistance is mounting and our freedom is nearer than ever. But, you may still ask, “Is there a cause for a celebration?”

 

We are not ashamed to say tonight, though we are not proud of it, that we are a colonized people. Colonized by a backward people such as the Abyssinian Amhara, and that we are struggling to free ourselves. And, many have asked, “How come such a large nation as the Oromo succumb to a smaller nation who cannot boast of technical superiority?” All I can say to this, this evening, is that weapons of destruction are more effective in the hands of savages. And, what is happening to the Oromo in the hands of Abyssinian Amharas is a leaving proof.

 

Powers in Europe, America, and Asia, have availed our aggressors with unlimited weaponry, without the necessary moral restraint. And, as the result, we see the Ethiopian junta roaming the Horn of Africa like an uncontrollable beast, destroying everything in its path.

 

Surviving all this, as a nation, and still being able to put up a formidable resistance is cause enough to celebrate. However, resistance is not an end in itself. In this case, it is the only way for survival and an eventual freedom.

 

Therefore, we have invited you here today to celebrate with us a National Day that we have chosen for ourselves. It, unfortunately, does not signify the liberation of our people from the yoke of Abyssinian colonialism, for we are not liberated yet. But it does signify the survival of our national identity and, in fact, the resurgence of our culture which has, for a century, been a target of a barbaric attack.

 

If there are no balloons and fireworks, it is because ours is a unique situation. We can celebrate because we are free here. In a large part of our country, the rulers have made it a crime to be an Oromo. A question of such celebration is non-existent except in the minds of our people, which, I might add, is not controlled by the enemy. In those areas which are liberated, development and reconstruction take priority. There is also an urgency to extend that freedom to areas that are still in enemy hands.

 

At this time, I ask all of you to stand up.

 

Here we gather to mourn our dead, promise our heroes, condemn our oppressors, and, most of all, pledge our support and solidarity to the vanguard of our masses, the Oromo Liberation Front.

 

A moment of silence, please;

 

Victory to the Oromo Liberation Front! Victory for the Oromo Masses! Oromia shall be free!

 

You may be seated.

 

Teferi Fufa, 1984

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